New Music Friday Album Reviews: Birds On A Line, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart & Murcof
We kick off this week’s album reviews with Personal War a white-hot nugget of post punk by Birds In A Row, a French three-piece. Airs of severity are the album’s bottom line hallmark. The seven, to-the-point, hardcore songs are sharply arranged and as beautifully austere as you’ll encounter in the genre. The guitars are ferociously hard and chiseled, arranged around short, blunt, power packed tracks. Songs like “O Dear” transport me back to a not so distant time when this kind of musical savagery, cranked up to ten, would cause my two fists to clench, eliciting gut level, visceral reactions.
There is also a concurrent thread of vulnerability weaving Personal War’s angst together, on display on songs such as “Worried” and the ominously raw, “Marathon” that is the last and longest song on the album (at a brisk few seconds over four minutes). With lyrics belted out in nearly indecipherable English, howling vocals transform into a feral instrument, as though someone pressed play on a view back in time to our collective, chaotic, animal past. Yet in spite of all the rheumy-eyed personal touches, members of Birds In A Row remain anonymous, going only by B, T and D, a device to project band cohesion. The most convincing evidence of how cohesive they are does not lie in their names however, it’s in their blistering eruptions and callous obliteration of convention. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
In contrast, New York’s indie rock sweethearts, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are back with a three-song EP entitled Hell released on their own label Painbow. There is little mystery as to the EP’s appeal: three tracks, two of which are covers, one of Felt’s oft-forgotten 1986 single, “Ballad Of The Band” and the second, “Laid” a classic tale of sexual appetites and extremes originally written and recorded by the English band, James.
A quick note, the original track is decent, The Pains at the ebb of their playfulness. What the track lacks in verbal and songwriting wit, it makes up for in mood, something not frequently written about the band. As a lifetime James fan though, I’m intrigued by the cover of “Laid”, a galvanizing anthem in my early experience, an ongoing touchstone for those who come after. I adore the electric guitar spin on the opening, a riff that still leaves me breathless; the progressions are just as gorgeous; but alas, I am left wanting Tim Booth’s androgynous cry of bliss and confusion and bliss again. Still, I’m going to say CHECK IT OUT because for a stab at an absolutely unforgettable underground gem, it’s pretty damn good.
About a week ago, I received a batch of promos from The Leaf Label out of Yorkshire, England, which is about to celebrate twenty years in business. In total, there were five or six really solid albums in the bunch, all set for re-release as The LEAF 20 Box Set in December. Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to highlight a few of the more outstanding collected works. This week, I’m talking about the downright brilliant Martes & Utopia by Murcof a work of electronic minimalism that has slowly garnered, classic status since it’s initial release in 2002. Murcof is the stage/musician name of Mexican composer Fernando Corona (now in Barcelona) an artist whose sense of space is staggering, almost heartbreaking to behold. I’ve been through Martes & Utopia at least six times now and the sparse, evocative sound, reminiscent of an open desert road in the moments before dawn has never failed to leave me disappointed. Simply put, Corona dispenses with the gimmicks. The way he isolates sounds and instruments in a full mix, whether a cold piano key, a mournful chord, or resonating sound effect, it evokes distinct emotions. He is in complete control, the sound he produces is like no other, and the result is an album you can truly surrender to. This is one of the most HIGHLY RECOMMENDED new re-releases in some time and in the interest of full disclosure, I’m buying this on LP because it’s already a necessity.